Bamboo saves lives and community in Davao Oriental

A rural community in the Philippines uses bamboo as an inexpensive and effective protection against river bank erosion thus mitigating the risk of recurrent flooding in their village.

In 2017, AWO International Southeast Asia partnered with Child Alert Mindanao (CAM) to implement a community-based disaster risk reduction and management project in Cateel, Davao Oriental. Cateel suffered many losses from Super Typhoon Bopha in 2012 – the project aimed to ensure that villages will be more prepared to face hazards that threaten their communities.

One of the project areas, Mainit village, is in a low-lying area along Manat river. Mainit experiences floods caused by the swelling of the river during prolonged rains. Villagers near the river were relocated to higher grounds after Bopha, but many of them stay as they do not want to leave their farms, their only source of income.

During hazard and risk assessment, villagers identified the flooding of Manat river as one of the primary hazards in the community. The riverbank is eroding because of the strong current, altering the river flow and causing flood towards homes. A concrete dike has been discussed with the government but has not materialized due to lack of needed resources.

Through the project, a small-scale mitigation initiative to lessen the impact of flooding in the community from the Manat river was initiated. The idea of a bamboo dike started during the visit of an AWO International staff from Nepal - seeing the erosion of the riverbank, he shared that in Nepal, bioengineering and bamboo has been effective for bank protection. CAM and village leaders saw the wisdom of the practice and decided to adapt it.

Chosen for the 200-meter bamboo embankment was the most critical part of the riverbank, where the erosion is threatening to destroy nearby houses. With the cooperation of the local government, the construction began in September 2017. For 3 months, villagers worked in filling sandbags, piling them in rows of 1.5 meters wide from the edge of the river bank and up to 2.5 meters deep. They weaved a wall using bamboo and drilled bamboo posts 3 meters underground to secure the wall. The bamboo posts will grow as trees, preventing the sand bags from caving in. Vetiver grass was planted in rows, known for its strong and complex root system that goes up to 3m deep- it will bind loose soil and prevent erosion. In a few years, when the bamboo wall gives out, the plantation (grass and bamboo) will have grown enough to support the riverbank.

As of this writing, five (5) major floods have been recorded but the dike has strongly stood its ground. Villagers near the bamboo dike express that they feel more secure in their homes and damage to crops are significantly reduced.

A testament to the initiative’s ingenuity, Child Alert Mindanao recently received a grant to scale-up the initiative from the Tuklas Innovation Labs, a project managed by the Start Network and CDAC Network, funded by UK Aid. A continuation of the bamboo dike will be constructed down the Manat river through this grant, along with an integration of a bamboo plantation that can also generate income for the community.


Project Title: Strengthening the resilience of four barangays (villages) in Davao Oriental

Project Location: Villages of Mainit, Abejod, San Rafael, and San Antonio in the Municipality of Cateel

Project Summary: Apart from the implementation of the bamboo dike construction in Mainit, the project provided trainings and equipment to village-level disaster risk reduction and management councils, and quick response teams for rescues during emergencies. The project also trained community educators to facilitate the participation of the community in different disaster risk reduction activities, such as hazard mapping, risk analysis, and community drills, benefiting at least 1,600 individuals in the four villages.

The bamboo dike constructed along the Manat river in Cateel, Davao Oriental spans over 200 meters.

During the 5th major flooding, a village councilor inspects if the bamboo dike suffered any damage.